Mónica Guzmán

Hate when you land on a site crawling with ads? So does Google, apparently. Google spam expert Matt Cutts said Wednesday that Google is considering penalizing ad-heavy sites in its search results, putting ad-happy webmasters on notice and making business analysts scratch their heads at the latest gospel from the Google god. Ads are still Google’s revenue model, right? 

Let’s not kid ourselves. Online advertising is the “gasoline that runs much of the Web,” as Seattle-based SEO and Web strategist Cyrus Shepard put it on the SEOMoz blog. I get that. It’s everywhere, and it has to be, if most sites (and pretty much all media sites) are going to exist. But few places can you find ads as intrusive, unpredictable and untrustworthy as on the Web.

Sure, plenty of ads behave, sitting sweetly on the sidelines. But the crap that even reputable sites and their visitors will put up with is one of the great mysteries of the Web to me, and an indicator of the strength of the economics.

Most likely, a Google clean-up would address quantity more than quality and maybe, just maybe, help kill off those icky content farms. But I’m going to go ahead and dream that it sparks a hunger for higher standards in all online advertising. In fact, I hope it’s the beginning of the end of online display ads as we know them — from Google and everyone else.

Here are five ranting reasons why.

It’s them versus you

On TV and radio, ads play nice with content: They take turns. When a show breaks for commercial, ads have the whole screen, the whole frequency, to make their pitch. Online, ads coexist with content on the same screen, having to compete with content you care about for your attention.

I’m one of those people who actually likes watching TV commercials (OK, Hulu commercials), and not just during the Super Bowl. Enough of them are clever and interesting to keep me tuned in. And why not? It’s not like I can turn away and get back to my show.

But online display ads are often too busy distracting you from the site’s content to weave a story, tell a good joke, or otherwise engage you in any way you might hope to appreciate. When I’m the middle of a great blog post and some ad manages to break my concentration, it wins, I lose, and I get pissed, no matter how cool the ad thinks it is.

I came here to read something, not fight for my right to focus. The medium pits the ads against the content, and, in turn, you. Gross.

They turn websites into minefields

An ill-fated attempt at relevance?

There are few things I hate looking up more than song lyrics. Is there any more popular, legit search that leads to sites so clearly overrun by the scum of the ad world?

I go in all spy-like, looking left, looking right. What will I have to shoot down to read the first verse? Sometimes, it’s all clear. Usually, I’m attacked head-on by a shampoo commercial that starts auto-playing from somewhere in the depths of the page, a pop-up urging me to make the song my ringtone, a congratulations on a free iPad triggered by some voodoo mouse-over — or all three.

This is an extreme example, but even reputable sites with reputable brands trap your mouse if it wanders. Suddenly the article you’re reading is moving down the page and you’re staring at a real estate ad you couldn’t care less about. Mine after mine leaves you bruised, battered and seriously ticked off. Enough.

Bad ads ruin the good

When media sites don’t sell all their ad inventory, some sell the leftover, or “remnant” ads to third-party ad networks or ad exchanges at a deep discount. This is how brands like CNN, ABC News and others whose mission is to provide readers with great information ended up helping shady businesses snare the un-savvy with promises of cheap teeth whitening, diet miracles, home money-making schemes and other nasty deals (though lately, thank goodness, some top media brands are finding a better alternative).

So there they are — deceptive, demeaning traps occupying the same space today that an ad for a national nonprofit or a local restaurant will take tomorrow. The result? A growing distrust of all ads, and worse, the sites that run them.

Last year, those acai berry ads with the pretty reporter’s face were everywhere. In April, they became the target of a Federal Trade Commission takedown. (That pretty reporter, by the way, is France’s Melissa Theuriau, and her image was stolen.)

“This type of junk shouldn’t be allowed,” Danny Sullivan wrote about a similarly deceptive ad served up by Google’s own DoubleClick ad network. I agree.

Their attempts at relevance misfire

Ah, yes, one of the classics.

I want to be a mom someday. But when I see those ads telling me that a “53-year-old Lakewood Mom looks 30″ or “makes Botox doctors furious,” I think twice. Who are the moms these shady advertisers are so confident they can lure? Besides, I live in Seattle, not Lakewood.

Failed attempts at relevance make ads all the more infuriating. And again, it’s not just the shady ads that sin. Where I’m writing here in Napa, California, I went to Seattlepi.com, which served up an ad for Google Offers that could help me discover “deals on the things that make Denver the best place to live.” Denver, huh?

Relevance is hard online. Appealing to our better selves, apparently, is harder. Facebook has the data to know what I care about, but then it serves me an ad asking if I’m a “female entrepreneur” who wants to find success with no sacrifice through the power of sensuality. F that.

They don’t fit on tablets or mobile

Here’s the kicker. The technology and user experience of the smartphone and yes, even the tablet, offers freedom from some of the worst habits of Web-based advertising. And I have to believe consumers will take it.

First, the phone. That little screen makes a big difference. Content has to come first in mobile apps if brands can even hope to draw downloads, and there just isn’t enough room for lots of ads to shout and scream over that little screen. Nor enough room for tolerance from mobile users to put up with them.

Now the tablet. In May I heard Greg Clayman, publisher of the iPad-only news magazine “The Daily,” talk about how ads work on the site. Essentially, they’re content. Like a print magazine, each full-screen ad has room to breathe and be beautiful without having to work as hard to pull you away from something else. Unlike a print magazine, ads on “The Daily” can be interactive. And the more the ads resemble timely content — a sporting goods ad updates the score of the game, for example — the more successful the ads appear to be. With 120,000 active weekly readers, The Daily has a ways to go before it can prove what works. Still, I hope they’re onto something.

We’ve got to demand better.

Comments

  • Guest

    Yeah, I’m going to hold my breath waiting for Google to voluntarily start reducing the spam ads that have and continue to line its coffers.

  • Guest

    Yeah, I’m going to hold my breath waiting for Google to voluntarily start reducing the spam ads that have and continue to line its coffers.

    • http://moniguzman.com Monica Guzman

      Not particularly likely. But they do have a vested interest in keeping their search strong, which could justify making sure that sites that let ads get too much in the way of content don’t see the top of the results page. Cyrus Shepard has a good roundup of best practices for safer ad placement here: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/guide-to-ads

    • http://moniguzman.com Monica Guzman

      Not particularly likely. But they do have a vested interest in keeping their search strong, which could justify making sure that sites that let ads get too much in the way of content don’t see the top of the results page. Cyrus Shepard has a good roundup of best practices for safer ad placement here: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/guide-to-ads

    • http://moniguzman.com Monica Guzman

      Not particularly likely. But they do have a vested interest in keeping their search strong, which could justify making sure that sites that let ads get too much in the way of content don’t see the top of the results page. Cyrus Shepard has a good roundup of best practices for safer ad placement here: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/guide-to-ads

  • Culturalcapitalism

    unfortunately display is a tonnage business; those crappy lowerbills and teeth whitening type ads actually convert well, because they only need 1 in a 1000 to click then buy..at the current bargain basement CPMs that sites are charging for ‘unsold’ inventory…LakeWood mom will continue to win that auction every time.

    this is a huge problem for microsoft/yahoo/aol; they NEED display to be profitable vs. Google  who is more interested in providing the plumbing/delivery long term. 

  • Culturalcapitalism

    unfortunately display is a tonnage business; those crappy lowerbills and teeth whitening type ads actually convert well, because they only need 1 in a 1000 to click then buy..at the current bargain basement CPMs that sites are charging for ‘unsold’ inventory…LakeWood mom will continue to win that auction every time.

    this is a huge problem for microsoft/yahoo/aol; they NEED display to be profitable vs. Google  who is more interested in providing the plumbing/delivery long term. 

  • Guest

    I’ve been using a novel program called “advertisement block” that lets me block all of these bothersome adverts, on which I never click, from appearing on my PC. If there were such a program for my smartphone or tablet, I would buy one.

    Startups: Develop an advertisement blocking app and I’ll buy it.

  • Guest

    I’ve been using a novel program called “advertisement block” that lets me block all of these bothersome adverts, on which I never click, from appearing on my PC. If there were such a program for my smartphone or tablet, I would buy one.

    Startups: Develop an advertisement blocking app and I’ll buy it.

  • Jason

    Good article for why we hate these ads. Now, on to what will change it. The way the web works today, advertisers have no choice but to blast you with 5000 ads, hoping that maybe one will work. Ad agencies would love to provide more targeted, focused advertising, but to do this, they’d have to know more personal info about you. And — so far — most people aren’t willing to give up their private information. My theory is that the next wave of killer apps will be the kind that integrate into your life, forever changing the way you live. The only way to do that is to give that app some personal info, and you’ll gladly do it, because it’s such a killer app. Then, the advertising can be more targeted, with fewer ads to get the results you want and the agencies need. This is the proverbial win, win, win.

    • http://moniguzman.com Monica Guzman

      “Ad agencies would love to provide more targeted, focused advertising, but to do this, they’d have to know more personal info about you. And — so far — most people aren’t willing to give up their private information.”

      Well put, Jason, and a big challenge. Though I wonder if your “next wave” of killer apps isn’t already here, and already facing resistance on this front. Facebook has changed the way we live in big ways; we’ve given it plenty of personal information. And though I cited that ridiculous “female entrepreneur” ad, some Facebook display ads have been useful. I once bought a front-row ticket to a Billy Joel concert (yes, I heart soft rock) and had the time of my life because of a Facebook ad. But the issue of privacy is a tricky one that, though it isn’t killing Facebook, doesn’t seem to be getting easier to navigate.

      Totally agree that there’s more to explore here. And yeah, a new generation of apps — particularly mobile ones — are experimenting with monetization models that involve merchant partnerships, etc. As long as the value is there for consumer in exchange for whatever personal information they give, in theory it is that “win-win” you’re talking about.

      But they key issue is trust. And so far, even apps that deliver lots of value in exchange for personal info have a really hard time earning it.

      • Jason

        While Facebook changed the game a couple years ago, it will look trivial in another 5-10 years.  We’ll remember it fondly for how much time we spent (and wasted) on it, and then wonder how we ever got along without the new “lifestyle” apps that came after it, with precious few realizing that they wouldn’t be possible without what came before.

        The current apps — monetization model-driven, etc. — aren’t nearly the kind of “killer” app I’m talking about, though they are taking the next (small) steps toward the revolutionary ones I’m predicting.

        These would provide more daily value than chatting and posting status(es) throughout the day… (e.g., think the difference between snail mail and email, or land lines and cellphones) and they would be fine-tuned to you and your lifestyle.

        Stop, take a breath, and ask yourself these: What, in my little world, would make my life easier? If there were an app that could help, what kind of (relevant) personal info would I be willing to give up to have it? Now mulitply by 5, 10, whatever number of apps you find helpful.

        Web 1.0 was about getting people online. Web 2.0 was about getting “you” on the web. Web 3.0 will be about weaving the web into your life. As far as how advertisers use this technology, it’s the same story as always. Technological capability first, intelligent/wise/helpful application second.

      • Jason

        While Facebook changed the game a couple years ago, it will look trivial in another 5-10 years.  We’ll remember it fondly for how much time we spent (and wasted) on it, and then wonder how we ever got along without the new “lifestyle” apps that came after it, with precious few realizing that they wouldn’t be possible without what came before.

        The current apps — monetization model-driven, etc. — aren’t nearly the kind of “killer” app I’m talking about, though they are taking the next (small) steps toward the revolutionary ones I’m predicting.

        These would provide more daily value than chatting and posting status(es) throughout the day… (e.g., think the difference between snail mail and email, or land lines and cellphones) and they would be fine-tuned to you and your lifestyle.

        Stop, take a breath, and ask yourself these: What, in my little world, would make my life easier? If there were an app that could help, what kind of (relevant) personal info would I be willing to give up to have it? Now mulitply by 5, 10, whatever number of apps you find helpful.

        Web 1.0 was about getting people online. Web 2.0 was about getting “you” on the web. Web 3.0 will be about weaving the web into your life. As far as how advertisers use this technology, it’s the same story as always. Technological capability first, intelligent/wise/helpful application second.

      • Jason

        While Facebook changed the game a couple years ago, it will look trivial in another 5-10 years.  We’ll remember it fondly for how much time we spent (and wasted) on it, and then wonder how we ever got along without the new “lifestyle” apps that came after it, with precious few realizing that they wouldn’t be possible without what came before.

        The current apps — monetization model-driven, etc. — aren’t nearly the kind of “killer” app I’m talking about, though they are taking the next (small) steps toward the revolutionary ones I’m predicting.

        These would provide more daily value than chatting and posting status(es) throughout the day… (e.g., think the difference between snail mail and email, or land lines and cellphones) and they would be fine-tuned to you and your lifestyle.

        Stop, take a breath, and ask yourself these: What, in my little world, would make my life easier? If there were an app that could help, what kind of (relevant) personal info would I be willing to give up to have it? Now mulitply by 5, 10, whatever number of apps you find helpful.

        Web 1.0 was about getting people online. Web 2.0 was about getting “you” on the web. Web 3.0 will be about weaving the web into your life. As far as how advertisers use this technology, it’s the same story as always. Technological capability first, intelligent/wise/helpful application second.

    • http://moniguzman.com Monica Guzman

      “Ad agencies would love to provide more targeted, focused advertising, but to do this, they’d have to know more personal info about you. And — so far — most people aren’t willing to give up their private information.”

      Well put, Jason, and a big challenge. Though I wonder if your “next wave” of killer apps isn’t already here, and already facing resistance on this front. Facebook has changed the way we live in big ways; we’ve given it plenty of personal information. And though I cited that ridiculous “female entrepreneur” ad, some Facebook display ads have been useful. I once bought a front-row ticket to a Billy Joel concert (yes, I heart soft rock) and had the time of my life because of a Facebook ad. But the issue of privacy is a tricky one that, though it isn’t killing Facebook, doesn’t seem to be getting easier to navigate.

      Totally agree that there’s more to explore here. And yeah, a new generation of apps — particularly mobile ones — are experimenting with monetization models that involve merchant partnerships, etc. As long as the value is there for consumer in exchange for whatever personal information they give, in theory it is that “win-win” you’re talking about.

      But they key issue is trust. And so far, even apps that deliver lots of value in exchange for personal info have a really hard time earning it.

    • http://moniguzman.com Monica Guzman

      “Ad agencies would love to provide more targeted, focused advertising, but to do this, they’d have to know more personal info about you. And — so far — most people aren’t willing to give up their private information.”

      Well put, Jason, and a big challenge. Though I wonder if your “next wave” of killer apps isn’t already here, and already facing resistance on this front. Facebook has changed the way we live in big ways; we’ve given it plenty of personal information. And though I cited that ridiculous “female entrepreneur” ad, some Facebook display ads have been useful. I once bought a front-row ticket to a Billy Joel concert (yes, I heart soft rock) and had the time of my life because of a Facebook ad. But the issue of privacy is a tricky one that, though it isn’t killing Facebook, doesn’t seem to be getting easier to navigate.

      Totally agree that there’s more to explore here. And yeah, a new generation of apps — particularly mobile ones — are experimenting with monetization models that involve merchant partnerships, etc. As long as the value is there for consumer in exchange for whatever personal information they give, in theory it is that “win-win” you’re talking about.

      But they key issue is trust. And so far, even apps that deliver lots of value in exchange for personal info have a really hard time earning it.

  • Jason

    Good article for why we hate these ads. Now, on to what will change it. The way the web works today, advertisers have no choice but to blast you with 5000 ads, hoping that maybe one will work. Ad agencies would love to provide more targeted, focused advertising, but to do this, they’d have to know more personal info about you. And — so far — most people aren’t willing to give up their private information. My theory is that the next wave of killer apps will be the kind that integrate into your life, forever changing the way you live. The only way to do that is to give that app some personal info, and you’ll gladly do it, because it’s such a killer app. Then, the advertising can be more targeted, with fewer ads to get the results you want and the agencies need. This is the proverbial win, win, win.

  • Bill Messing

    For publishers, low-value remnant inventory diverts attention and clicks from higher-value placements. I had the experience both at MSN and at Classmates of removing inventory from pages and watching the yield of the page overall increase. There’s always someone internally making the case to add inventory to generate more revenue, which is how the excess inventory gets created, but in fact the reverse is true. Google is not being altruistic, it just wants to sell display ads at the highest CPM’s it can get. Exiling junk ads to Siberia in search results, and creating inventory scarcity on pages that do make the cut, is a great way to do that.

  • Bill Messing

    For publishers, low-value remnant inventory diverts attention and clicks from higher-value placements. I had the experience both at MSN and at Classmates of removing inventory from pages and watching the yield of the page overall increase. There’s always someone internally making the case to add inventory to generate more revenue, which is how the excess inventory gets created, but in fact the reverse is true. Google is not being altruistic, it just wants to sell display ads at the highest CPM’s it can get. Exiling junk ads to Siberia in search results, and creating inventory scarcity on pages that do make the cut, is a great way to do that.

  • http://twitter.com/bawbgale Bob Gale

    No question there’s a lot of crap out there. But RE: “On TV and radio, ads play nice with content…” and “When media sites don’t sell all their ad inventory…”, keep in mind the fundamental difference between how “old media” and “new media” work. I.e. a few big companies, most with ad staffs, controlling the experience vs. everyone’s a publisher, and which ad any given viewer sees is determined at the moment of viewing, based on factors that the publisher doesn’t control. It’s hard for the little guys to own the quality of the ad experience and still keep the lights on.

  • http://twitter.com/bawbgale Bob Gale

    No question there’s a lot of crap out there. But RE: “On TV and radio, ads play nice with content…” and “When media sites don’t sell all their ad inventory…”, keep in mind the fundamental difference between how “old media” and “new media” work. I.e. a few big companies, most with ad staffs, controlling the experience vs. everyone’s a publisher, and which ad any given viewer sees is determined at the moment of viewing, based on factors that the publisher doesn’t control. It’s hard for the little guys to own the quality of the ad experience and still keep the lights on.

  • http://twitter.com/bawbgale Bob Gale

    No question there’s a lot of crap out there. But RE: “On TV and radio, ads play nice with content…” and “When media sites don’t sell all their ad inventory…”, keep in mind the fundamental difference between how “old media” and “new media” work. I.e. a few big companies, most with ad staffs, controlling the experience vs. everyone’s a publisher, and which ad any given viewer sees is determined at the moment of viewing, based on factors that the publisher doesn’t control. It’s hard for the little guys to own the quality of the ad experience and still keep the lights on.

  • http://fijiaaron.wordpress.com/ Aaron

    When Google says “we will give arbitrary preferential treatment to some sites in our search results” what they’re really saying is that you have to pay Google to get to the top of their search results. 

    Do they realize how fragile their market position is? Or has having only an incompetent Microsoft for competition in search made Google too cocky?  

    • Guest

      Agree with the first statement. Not sure on the second. Yes, MS & Yahoo have been incompetent competition. Heck, there isn’t even a consistent narrow by time filter on Bing. How can they possibly expect to win while missing something so basic? Yes, Google is beyond cocky. But who is really in a position to take them on in search? They’re at 90% share in most markets outside NA and China. In NA they’re at 65% and holding solid. Apple? Maybe with their mobile strength and siri. Bing, Yahoo, Ask, AOL, etc? No way.

    • Guest

      Agree with the first statement. Not sure on the second. Yes, MS & Yahoo have been incompetent competition. Heck, there isn’t even a consistent narrow by time filter on Bing. How can they possibly expect to win while missing something so basic? Yes, Google is beyond cocky. But who is really in a position to take them on in search? They’re at 90% share in most markets outside NA and China. In NA they’re at 65% and holding solid. Apple? Maybe with their mobile strength and siri. Bing, Yahoo, Ask, AOL, etc? No way.

    • Guest

      Agree with the first statement. Not sure on the second. Yes, MS & Yahoo have been incompetent competition. Heck, there isn’t even a consistent narrow by time filter on Bing. How can they possibly expect to win while missing something so basic? Yes, Google is beyond cocky. But who is really in a position to take them on in search? They’re at 90% share in most markets outside NA and China. In NA they’re at 65% and holding solid. Apple? Maybe with their mobile strength and siri. Bing, Yahoo, Ask, AOL, etc? No way.

  • http://fijiaaron.wordpress.com/ Aaron

    When Google says “we will give arbitrary preferential treatment to some sites in our search results” what they’re really saying is that you have to pay Google to get to the top of their search results. 

    Do they realize how fragile their market position is? Or has having only an incompetent Microsoft for competition in search made Google too cocky?  

  • http://fijiaaron.wordpress.com/ Aaron

    When Google says “we will give arbitrary preferential treatment to some sites in our search results” what they’re really saying is that you have to pay Google to get to the top of their search results. 

    Do they realize how fragile their market position is? Or has having only an incompetent Microsoft for competition in search made Google too cocky?  

  • Marston_gould

    I think most people miss the point of what Google is doing, if they make this change.
    My opinion – Google made a decision, some time ago, that the majority of low quality search results were tied to organizations that were entirely focused on long-tail search.

    I believe that Google realized that most of the organizations focused exclusively on long-tail search were likely to be in the game only for arbitrage of one kind or another without adding any real value for consumers. But for a long while, it was difficult for Google to do anything about this. This meant that organizations that were good with on-page SEO techniques could pollute SERPs with less than high quality results. 

    Instant, Preview, Panda – all of these efforts have made the life of long-tail searchers harder. In their next major action, going after ads, I believe will be selective. Those sites that have paid search and/or display accounts of size (e.g. they purchase ads) are not likely to be hit. But those sites that arbitrage SEO for the sole purpose of arbitraging ads on their own sites likely will be hit hard. This is also likely to have a negative impact on sites that simply gather and aggregate content for the sole purpose of arbitraging ads. 

    And even though Matt Cutts has said that Google has no intention of linking Gmail with SEO, I find it quite logical that they look at send volumes – particularly to dead accounts, and determine the URLs these emails are being sent to/from. If they find sites that are responsible for a great deal of spam, then they could penalize their SEO/SEM. This is a trickier one because technically you could go after your competitors with this technique. But the greater likelihood would be for Google to match domains in send lines to domains in target URLs or to look at enablers of list rental platforms like AdKnowledge, SpireVision/XL Media, and Webjuice and penalize their customers. I think the main reason that Google will eventually head down this path is that they likely don’t appreciate sites that first hook consumers with SEO and then carpet bomb them with email to then arbitrage them with ads.

    Put together, without long-tail search, Google will be in a better position to force sites to focus on quality content and white hat/approved SEO methods. If anyone violates as some large branded sites did pre-Panda, the ability for Google to adjust for these actions will be far easier and the damage for more targeted.

    Another outcome could be to put a damper on those SEO firms that focus nearly all of their efforts on either black hat techniques or even those that are solely focused to on-page SEO.

  • Marston_gould

    I think most people miss the point of what Google is doing, if they make this change.
    My opinion – Google made a decision, some time ago, that the majority of low quality search results were tied to organizations that were entirely focused on long-tail search.

    I believe that Google realized that most of the organizations focused exclusively on long-tail search were likely to be in the game only for arbitrage of one kind or another without adding any real value for consumers. But for a long while, it was difficult for Google to do anything about this. This meant that organizations that were good with on-page SEO techniques could pollute SERPs with less than high quality results. 

    Instant, Preview, Panda – all of these efforts have made the life of long-tail searchers harder. In their next major action, going after ads, I believe will be selective. Those sites that have paid search and/or display accounts of size (e.g. they purchase ads) are not likely to be hit. But those sites that arbitrage SEO for the sole purpose of arbitraging ads on their own sites likely will be hit hard. This is also likely to have a negative impact on sites that simply gather and aggregate content for the sole purpose of arbitraging ads. 

    And even though Matt Cutts has said that Google has no intention of linking Gmail with SEO, I find it quite logical that they look at send volumes – particularly to dead accounts, and determine the URLs these emails are being sent to/from. If they find sites that are responsible for a great deal of spam, then they could penalize their SEO/SEM. This is a trickier one because technically you could go after your competitors with this technique. But the greater likelihood would be for Google to match domains in send lines to domains in target URLs or to look at enablers of list rental platforms like AdKnowledge, SpireVision/XL Media, and Webjuice and penalize their customers. I think the main reason that Google will eventually head down this path is that they likely don’t appreciate sites that first hook consumers with SEO and then carpet bomb them with email to then arbitrage them with ads.

    Put together, without long-tail search, Google will be in a better position to force sites to focus on quality content and white hat/approved SEO methods. If anyone violates as some large branded sites did pre-Panda, the ability for Google to adjust for these actions will be far easier and the damage for more targeted.

    Another outcome could be to put a damper on those SEO firms that focus nearly all of their efforts on either black hat techniques or even those that are solely focused to on-page SEO.

  • Marston_gould

    I think most people miss the point of what Google is doing, if they make this change.
    My opinion – Google made a decision, some time ago, that the majority of low quality search results were tied to organizations that were entirely focused on long-tail search.

    I believe that Google realized that most of the organizations focused exclusively on long-tail search were likely to be in the game only for arbitrage of one kind or another without adding any real value for consumers. But for a long while, it was difficult for Google to do anything about this. This meant that organizations that were good with on-page SEO techniques could pollute SERPs with less than high quality results. 

    Instant, Preview, Panda – all of these efforts have made the life of long-tail searchers harder. In their next major action, going after ads, I believe will be selective. Those sites that have paid search and/or display accounts of size (e.g. they purchase ads) are not likely to be hit. But those sites that arbitrage SEO for the sole purpose of arbitraging ads on their own sites likely will be hit hard. This is also likely to have a negative impact on sites that simply gather and aggregate content for the sole purpose of arbitraging ads. 

    And even though Matt Cutts has said that Google has no intention of linking Gmail with SEO, I find it quite logical that they look at send volumes – particularly to dead accounts, and determine the URLs these emails are being sent to/from. If they find sites that are responsible for a great deal of spam, then they could penalize their SEO/SEM. This is a trickier one because technically you could go after your competitors with this technique. But the greater likelihood would be for Google to match domains in send lines to domains in target URLs or to look at enablers of list rental platforms like AdKnowledge, SpireVision/XL Media, and Webjuice and penalize their customers. I think the main reason that Google will eventually head down this path is that they likely don’t appreciate sites that first hook consumers with SEO and then carpet bomb them with email to then arbitrage them with ads.

    Put together, without long-tail search, Google will be in a better position to force sites to focus on quality content and white hat/approved SEO methods. If anyone violates as some large branded sites did pre-Panda, the ability for Google to adjust for these actions will be far easier and the damage for more targeted.

    Another outcome could be to put a damper on those SEO firms that focus nearly all of their efforts on either black hat techniques or even those that are solely focused to on-page SEO.

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